Viral Delivery of GDNF Promotes Functional Integration of Human Stem Cell Grafts in Parkinson's Disease

Carlos W. Gantner, Isabelle R. de Luzy, Jessica A. Kauhausen, Niamh Moriarty, Jonathan C. Niclis, Christopher R. Bye, Vanessa Penna, Cameron P.J. Hunt, Charlotte M. Ermine, Colin W. Pouton, Deniz Kirik, Lachlan H. Thompson, Clare L. Parish

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Dopaminergic neurons (DAns), generated from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), are capable of functionally integrating following transplantation and have recently advanced to clinical trials for Parkinson's disease (PD). However, pre-clinical studies have highlighted the low proportion of DAns within hPSC-derived grafts and their inferior plasticity compared to fetal tissue. Here, we examined whether delivery of a developmentally critical protein, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), could improve graft outcomes. We tracked the response of DAns implanted into either a GDNF-rich environment or after a delay in exposure. Early GDNF promoted survival and plasticity of non-DAns, leading to enhanced motor recovery in PD rats. Delayed exposure to GDNF promoted functional recovery through increases in DAn specification, DAn plasticity, and DA metabolism. Transcriptional profiling revealed a role for mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-signaling downstream of GDNF. Collectively, these results demonstrate the potential of neurotrophic gene therapy strategies to improve hPSC graft outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-526
Number of pages21
JournalCell Stem Cell
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020


  • dopamine
  • GDNF
  • glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor
  • graft integration
  • human embryonic stem cells
  • LMX1A
  • neural plasticity
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • PITX3
  • transplantation

Cite this

Gantner, C. W., de Luzy, I. R., Kauhausen, J. A., Moriarty, N., Niclis, J. C., Bye, C. R., Penna, V., Hunt, C. P. J., Ermine, C. M., Pouton, C. W., Kirik, D., Thompson, L. H., & Parish, C. L. (2020). Viral Delivery of GDNF Promotes Functional Integration of Human Stem Cell Grafts in Parkinson's Disease. Cell Stem Cell, 26(4), 511-526.